Silent Partner

Rescued Films, 2001
Producer/Director: Alkinos Tsilimidos

Part 1: Film Information

Cast and Credits

Director:
Alkinos Tsilimidos

Starring:
David Field as John
Syd Brisbane as Bill

And Introducing:
"Hebe" as 'Silent Partner'

Screenplay:
Daniel Keene

Producer:
Alkinos Tsilimidos

Associate Producer:
David Field

Cinematography:
Toby Oliver

Music:
Paul Kelly
Gerry Hale

Production Designer:
Justin Kurzel

Sound Designer:
Peter Walker

Editors:
Alkinos Tsilimidos
Ken Sallows

Production Company:
Rescued Films (in association with):
Australian Film Commission
The Premium Movie Partnership
SBS Independent

Release and Box Office details

Silent Partner was released August 16th 2001 and finished the year on place 222 in the Australian Box office. The film made AUD $12, 001 upon release and AUD $33, 101 throughout the year. You can say that Silent Partner was not a hit at the box office but was part of the official selection at international film festivals in Montreal, Toronto, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane in 2001. Considering the $13, 500 budget it was made with, however, the film did not rate too badly. Silent Partner was released on video and DVD on the 24th of April 2002.

Duration
84 minutes

Classification
MA 15+

Bibliography

Interviews

The SBS movie show website (http://www.sbs.com.au/movieshow/reviews.php3?id=744)
features interviews with the director Alkinos Tsilimidos and David Field, who plays the role of John in the film. I could not find any other interviews that were accessible to the public.

Reviews

Due, presumably, to its poor performance at the box office and small budget, Silent Partner was not a major presence in the international media. All reviews I found were from media based here in Australia. Also, due to it's box office ratings, most reviews must have been scrapped from archives due to low demand.
Although the reviews were not common, they did provide great insight into the film and brought up some interesting points about Australian film and its status in the international market.

* Cinefile review: (http://www.cinephilia.net.au/show_amovie.php?movieid=1219)
* Filmink review: (http://www.filmink.com.au/search/displayarticle.asp?article_id=319)
* Empire review: (http://www.empireonline.com.au/new/html/past/films/Review.asp?MovieID=250)
* John Flaus review: (http://www.sensesofcinema.com/contents/01/16/silent.html)
* SBS movieshow: (http://www.sbs.com.au/movieshow/reviews.php3?id=744)
* JJJ review: (http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/review/film/s350168.htm)

Reviews featured on the films website (http://www.palace.net.au/silentpartner) were from Filmink and IF magazine. Both were very short and quite likely, edited.

Search Information

The film Silent Partner received little media coverage and it was therefore difficult to find any reviews or interviews with the cast or crew. The ones mentioned above were basically all I could scrape together. Since my searches were done on the Internet, I thought it would be easiest to get information and archival responses to the film. This was not the case. Maybe the film did not receive much media coverage due to its poor success at the box office or due to its late release in the year. It was strange, though, considering the amount of reviews that praised the film and its cast and crew. Maybe bad publicity, although not warranted, would have given it better media coverage.

Online, the film was there, but multiple searches revealed the same results, which were little and most did not really help as they gave synopses and short summaries of the impact it did not have on the international market. The only reviews I found were those listed above. The only interviews I found were those two on the Movie Show site and another interview with the director that was only available by subscription.

Silent Partner received no mention in books that I could find (which is why I decided to base my search on the Internet in the first place). I would put this mainly down to the films lack of media coverage and importance in the Australian film industry. It received little to no international media coverage and although screened at major film festivals across the globe, did not receive any awards.

Basically, searching for any information on the film was time-consuming (sorting through the internet-junk) and frustrating. Most of the information I found was irrelevant or scattered and apart from the cast and crew information, very vague. Most of the cast and crew information came from the video (even the film's own website did not have that) and the money-side of things came easily from box office information sites.

Part 2: critical uptake

Synopsis

Silent Partner is the story of two Aussie blokes, Bill and John who spend their days drinking VB and compulsively, and unsuccessfully punting at the Greyhounds. One day, they seemingly get a lucky break, when the mysterious racing identity Alex Silver offers them the chance of a lifetime: to race a greyhound of their own, with minimal expenses and a 30 per cent cut.

They name their red brindle bitch Silent Partner. After coming second in a country race, Silent Partner gets a shot at the city races where she comes in fourth. A distressed John takes it upon himself to inform Alex of the blunder, who instructs the two mates to dope the dog for her second city appearance, after which they have the opportunity to buy out the dog for $5000.

They back their dog with all the money in they can scrounge in a week and see here, Silent Partner wins the race by two lengths and at excellent odds. The boys celebrate but soon discover another blunder: the dog is dead (presumably from an overdose). Broke and without an asset to their name their friendship seems to tear at the seams. A drunken fight breaks out between the two and they both learn valuable lessons about loyalty and trust, the bases of a friendship. The film ends with a silent reconciliation breakfast.


Production
Silent Partner stars David Field (Two Hands, Chopper) and Syd Brisbane. It was produced and directed by Alkinos Tsilimidos and written by Daniel Keene.

Silent Partner was shot in just 7 days with a crew of 5 on location in inner city Sydney, Australia. It had a self-financed shooting budget of $13,500 and subsequently received post-production funding of approximately $300,000 after reaching double head rough-cut stage. It was then picked up for a limited Australian distribution by Palace Films and went on to participate at Toronto, Montreal, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Athens film festivals.

Prior work

The director/producer

Alkinos Tsilimidos

Silent partner is only the second feature film by the award-winning director and was his long-awaited return to the screen.

His first feature Everynight...Everynight (1994) received critical acclaim both locally and internationally. It was awarded Best First Film (Prix D'Montreal) at the Montreal World Film Festival. It was screened in competition at the Stockholm Film Festival, the Athens Opening Nights Film Festival and the Oslo International Film Festival in 1994 and made its Australian premiere at the Melbourne Film Festival the same year.

Alkinos was nominated for two AFI awards for direction and screenplay for Everynight...Everynight in 1994 also.

The lead actors

David Field

At the time of Silent Partner's release, David field had appeared in ten feature films including Broken Highway, Everynight...Everynight and On Our Selection. More recently he has appeared in award winning films Chopper and Two Hands as well as a major role in Mr Accident. David Field is considered one of Australia's most dynamic actors for his on stage and on screen abilities.

Syd Brisbane

Syd Brisbane is one of Australia's best character actors according to some with a career spanning 17 years. His theatre highlights include Daniel Keene's Low and Terminus. His film highlights were Dead Letter Office, Struck by Lightning and the critically acclaimed Bad Boy Bubby.

The writer

Daniel Keene

Daniel Keene has been writing for the stage and the screen for 25 years. His highly acclaimed works include All Souls, Terminus and Silent Partner. His plays have been produced in Australia and internationally.

Daniel has won The South Australian Premiere's Literary prize for Drama once and the Victorian Premiere's Literary prize for Drama twice. He received the Wal Cherry Play of the Year Award for Beneath Heaven and the Australian National Playwright's Centre/New Dramatists (New York) Summer Locke Elliott Fellowship. He also won the Louis Esson prize for Drama in 1989 for Silent Partner. In 1996 Daniel Keene also won Best New Australian Play in the Green Room awards for All Souls.

The cinematographer

Toby Oliver

Toby Oliver's career started in 1986 when he made student films at the Swinburne School of Film and Television in Melbourne. In 1993 Toby shot his first feature film Everynight...Everynight, which was directed by Alkinos Tsilimidos. He won an ACS award for cinematography for his efforts. His further works have included Stitched (Gregor Jordan, 1996) and the Australian box office hit and AFI award winning film, Looking For Alibrandi (Kate Woods, 1999).

Critical Uptake

Cinefile review:

Cinefile points out that "as an Australian film Silent Partner is relatively unusual in that it does not follow the well-worn approach of playing up the stereotypical cultural artefacts and idioms". It does however provide the background for the development of the characters. Cinefile shows that Silent Partner seems more like an extension of a short film and that this hardly makes it crowd pleasing and this may be why it did not fare too well at the box office. For those interested in studying film it is a solid piece of craftsmanship in all departments of filmmaking.

Filmink review:

Filmink rates the film with two three star ratings and one four star rating. Silent partner's dialogue is again pointed out to be better suited to theatre. This review praises the acting abilities of the two lead role actors and also the characters themselves. This review is based more on the script than on the cinematography or other filmic elements, so its fairness could be questioned. Overall I believe a highly credible review, though in that its main theme is that: "as a film this two-hander just works".

Empire review:

Oscar Hillerstrom reviews the film for Empire magazine. He points out that the script is more suitable to the stage than the big screen but that it is "poetic in its visual squalor...[and] spot on in idiom and dialogue". He also identifies how well David Field interprets his character, John. Hillerstrom also commends the film on its comedic value. He rates Silent Partner with three stars.

John Flaus review:

John Flaus reviewed this film in September of 2001. Although having some interesting points, Flaus seems to be a little bitter in his review and extremely pessimistic when it comes to putting the film in an Australian perspective. He believes the David Field to be merely "overacting" his role of John (unsubstantiated by his later comments) and that the characters are a combination of the Upper classes "exaggeration, antipathy and the presumption of audience superiority over the colony's home grown version of Cockney". Personally, I believe his extreme left-wing comments to be clouding his judgment, as a certain amount of unhealthy paranoia kicks in. Still, the review provides an interesting counterbalance to the overall positive reviews the film received from other sources.

SBS Movie Show:

Again, Margaret Pomeranz points out the films inability to function without the elements of the stage taking over. She commends the film on excellent acting skills and its "boozy poetry". She also says that it seemed like a contemporary version of Waiting for Godot in that the script "tends to be a series of drunken conversations between two losers who take a punt and experience some disappointment and pain but find that they actually belong together". Overall, she credits the film for its efforts with a low budget and difficult script.

JJJ review:

Megan Spencer believes that this film provides not only an interesting insight into the underbelly of Australia's culture, but also points out that the results at the box office were not reflective of the importance of films of this type. She believes that these two hander films, about the "scum" of lower class Australia show the Australian public a certain truth about Australian society that is usually ignored. Megan Spencer also commends David Field's efforts in that she claims, "the production design is the film's star, almost a character in this film. It serves to truly heighten Silent Partner's authenticity and the poignancy of Keene's dialogue".

My Opinion

Overall I commend the film on its splendid cinematography and its intelligent story. I believe its budget; position in the box office and overall achievements did not reflect its position in the Australian film industry. Although it did not achieve financially, I believe that artistically and creatively it supersedes many other more prominent Australian feature films.

There were a few features about the film, which I believed to rate very highly. Firstly, I thought the cinematography was excellent. For such a low-budget film, there were some very impressive and meaningful shots in the film. I agree with the films cinematographer, Toby Oliver, when he says that working at both ends of the budget spectrum can fuel the creative process with innovative aesthetic solutions whilst maintaining a clear idea of economical and visual storytelling. He has certainly achieved that here. What he also achieved was that the low budget cinematography added to the credibility of the two characters and ultimately the audience's empathy for the characters.

Secondly I thought the acting was absolutely superb. David Field has been known only for his tough roles, such as in Chopper and Two Hands. This character gave David the role to prove himself as a versatile actor in that his character John is very different to the norm expected from David Field. John can not be described as tough, but more a hopeless, unlucky hero, who's drunken, philosophical insights into working class Australia give him comedic value.

Syd Brisbane, although credited with filmic and theatrical achievements, has never landed a lead role. This role has really given him the chance to expand and prove himself, which he does extremely well. His character Bill is the loveable counterpart to John, who's optimism throughout the film, keeps the characters and the story going.

The story was good, but its adaptation from the theatre was obvious in places, with dialogue being confusing at times and the conclusion being more suitable for the stage than the screen. I agree with Margaret Pomeranz (from the Movie Show) that the story is like a modern day cinematic version of Waiting for Godot, not because of its story, but because of its cryptic dialogue and philosophical overtones that were similar to the play. This was the only thing that really let down the film, although I believe the other elements certainly made up for it.

If I were a professional, who I am most certainly not, I would rate the film 4/5 stars.

Position in the Australian film industry and internationally

"Forget the "little Aussie battler" - we don't make nearly enough films about our ever-growing underclass, the "have-nots" that's for certain. And when you see a film like Silent Partner, we're reminded just how few of these stories turn up on our screens. Stories, which are undoubtedly just as culturally valid and interesting as the genteel, "quirky" comedies we so often celebrate and automatically laud in Australia." (Megan Spencer, Triple J)


I agree with Megan Spencer that Silent Partner should have attracted a greater audience than it did. Maybe this just points out certain ignorance in the Australian people in that they like to think that the characters do not exist in real life. It may also show a reluctance of an Australian audience to view Australian feature films because they do not rate them as high in quality as their American counterparts. This has changed in recent years, but only after Australian actors started breaking ground in Hollywood and Australia became a more popular setting for American productions, has Australian cinema been recognised highly in the public eye.

Silent Partner rates highly among its fellow Australian films as it shows some great creative input on behalf of the actors and the cinematographer in particular. This being achieved on a small budget and in seven days no less just shows how highly the Australian film industry should rate compared to overseas industries. Financially, both in input and in output it cannot compare to some of the other films produced in 2001, such as Moulin Rouge for example.

Overall, I believe that Silent Partner did not get nearly enough credit from the Australian public as deserved. Judging from its lack in media coverage, it did not receive much international recognition. Personally, I believe this is because the themes and character traits speak more to an Australian public than an international one. Culturally, Australia has developed its own, distinct values which are reflected in the film, but which other cultures will fail to understand.